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Last season Shelby County’s girls’ cross-country team missed qualifying for the state finals by a single point.
When a competition is that close, the difference between advancing and being sent home comes down to seconds and strides.
After a year of thinking about the loss, the Rockets are looking at the regional qualification meet this Saturday to make up for lost time, settle some scores, and send the team to state meet for the first time since 2001.
This week at her team’s practices, Coach Slone Barnett has been challenging the girls to be prepared mentally to give it all they have to make it to State.
Barnett said four of her runners, Caterina Karas, Taylor Webb, Janelle Solinger, Lindsey Miller, are currently at the top of their games.
But in order to earn enough points to qualify for state, Barnett said a fifth person on the seven-member squad will have to step up and finish well at Saturday's meet.
"I'm still looking for that fifth person," she said. "They all know what it's going to take to win, and I am proud of how they have been practicing."
The regional meet, which will take place at Seneca Park in Louisville, will pit the Rockets against some of the best teams in the state. Only the top four finishing teams will advance, and with three of the top four teams in the state competing in the region, competition is anything but weak.
Barnett said the top two teams in the state, Assumption and Sacred Heart, will be tough to match, along with fourth-ranked Eastern High School.
She said the Rockets will also have to contend with Oldham County High School, who recently knocked SCHS out of the state's top-10 teams and who for the last two years has bumped the Rockets out of the state meet. That's something that Barnett, and the runners on the squad, are keeping in mind.
"We are going to have our eyes on Oldham," she said.
If the team as a whole does not qualify for the state meet, team members can qualify individually.
And with some members on the team clocking in finishing times in the high teens, Barnett said three or four members of the team could qualify individually.
She said she is looking to two of the youngest members of the team to put up some fast times.
After winning the Meet of Champions in Louisville last week, freshman Karas said she feels healthy and strong going into Saturday's meet. She is hoping to finish in the top five and to equal or best time of 18 minutes, 53 seconds for the 5 kilometers, which she ran last weekend.
That performance also earned her statewide attention when she was named this week's winner of the "Primetime Prep Performer of the Week," as chosen by sports announcer Tom Leach.
Karas said she's just focused on the race.
"I'm just going to give it all I have left out there," she said.
Taylor Webb, an eighth grader at East Middle School, is also hoping to finish well this Saturday, with a goal of running the course in less than 20 minutes and placing in the top 20. This season her best time has been 20:31, and if she can match that time on Saturday, she will likely qualify for her second trip to the state competition.